Archive for the 'Beer' Category

Pony Express!

Posted by Karen in Beer, Bike Commuting.
Monday, June 16th, 2008 at 8:53 pm


It was just yesterday that I said, when describing my bike’s new carrying capacity, "the possibilities are endless".  How right I was.

Today  I tried out my rack and pannier for the first time and carried my laptop, a bunch of work stuff, food, a change of clothes and more on the 9.2 mile ride in on my pony with amazing ease.  I really didn’t even notice a difference – except when I was carrying my bike down the stairs at my building and it was crazy heavy.
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For the ride home I had anticipated a light load, but wait!  What’s that in the photo, nestled down in there, having just been safely transported by me and my pony the 9.2 miles home?  Why, I think it’s – it is!  A growler of beer from Fitger’s Brewhouse! 

My coworker dropped this delightful growler of Hefe Roggen off 20080616193315_growler.jpgat the office for me on her way back into town from Duluth, and while at first I thought I’d leave it in the office fridge till tomorrow, when I have to drive, then I thought, I’m gonna have to find out how lots of beer fares in the pannier sooner or later, may as well be today.  As it turns out, it works perfectly.  It wasn’t even all that snug I might add – in fact, I dare say I could probably fit 2 growlers!  Good to know, good to know. 

I’m participating in this Bike2Benefits program, where you commit to bike, ride the bus, or carpool at least once a week for 8 weeks, and then are entered to win sweet free stuff.  The coolest part is they have this calendar thingy where you enter when you ride your bike and how far your commute was, and it tracks how many miles you’ve ridden, how much money you’ve saved (based on a per mile cost for maintenance, tires, and gas at $3.50/gallon, which it is already more than), how much less CO2 you’ve emitted than if you’d driven, and how much less air quality pollution you’ve created than if you’d driven (carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and organic compounds, three of the most common pollutants).  And after only 3 days of bike commuting, I’ve ridden 55 miles, saved $12.65, produced 54.22 lbs less CO2 and 2.19 lbs less air quality pollution!

Montreal: beer report

Posted by Nate in Beer, Travel, Work.
Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 at 9:37 pm


The trip report wouldn’t be complete without at least a semi-comprehensive writeup of the multitude of brewpubs we visited!  You’ve already read about most of our adventures drinking through Michigan, but the city of Montreal has some gems worth mentioning.

Our first night, which Karen blogged, was spent at one of the walking-distance brewpubs, Les Trois Brasseurs.  Overall: give them a pass.  Not bad, some good "European" flavor, but points deducted for a recurring "off" flavor in all their beers except the very nice Wit.  On the plus side they offer a huge number of beer "cocktails", and Justin and I sampled the Wit plus whisky and maple syrup: a bit sweet, but hell yeah!

The next day I realized the full impact of my post on the conference site which called on all beer geeks to join up and go out – I found myself coordinating more than a dozen people as we struck out the crown jewel of Montreal brewpubs: Dieu du Ciel! (the exclamation point is part of the name!)

It wasn’t too be – hockey playoffs left no room for our posse, so we rode the Metro and walked to L’amère à boire.  It was fantastic!  They had a house pale ale on cask, an imperial stout we tried, a great dunkelweizen, and much more.  This one definitely makes the list of "stop in if you can".

Next day for lunch, determined to hit Dieu du Ciel! that evening, I talked some people into walking through the cold wind to Brutopia.  Another good choice!  We liked it so much I was talked into going there again that night with more people and found the downstairs area where they offered a really amazing I20080415042657_pict0041.jpgPA on cask and a few of their own beers in bottles.  The IPA tasted like "England in a pint" to me: malty and rich with just a nice zap of hops.  Really excellent.  And we sampled a bottle of their maple beer – also nice.  Dry and complex.  Much fun was had by everyone at this one, we lost a few of our earlier members and gained a few new ones.  Here’s a washed out picture so you can see some of the beer list behind me…  So:  go here too, and try to get the cask IPA.  The scotch ale is also a pleaser, as is the excellent mocha chocolate stout.  Mmmm.

20080416050703_img_5557.jpgFinally, we were down to the last night of the conference, and still no Dieu du Ciel!  I announced firmly to anyone that asked that I didn’t care what everyone else did, but I was definitely, no question about it, going to Dieu du Ciel tonight.  So we did – as 20080416201957_img_5562a.jpgsoon as the closing plenary was done, I grabbed Karen and we took a cab to the pub.  Another hockey game was starting soon, but we grabbed a seat at the bar (beer geeks always sit at the bar), and I started massively drooling over their beer list.  It’s seriously phenomenal: I think 17 beers on tap and one on cask.  Started with the maple scotch ale (maple’s a theme here, I think) which was truly amazing.  So good.  There was a peppercorn rye beer, a smoked pale ale, and an "indian cream ale" which was the I-could-drink-a-million-of-these winner for the evening.  We watched hockey and drank beer and life was good.

20080416050755_img_5565.jpgSpeaking of "beer geeks always sit at the bar", I happened to recognize a guy who came in after us – he’d been at Brutopia the night before!  A Canadian in town for business, he’d been making the brewpub rounds just like us!  We struck up a conversation and had much good beer talk, and you can thank him for all these pictures since our camera battery had died.  Beer brings people together, yo… :)

20080415042904_pict0004.jpgFinally it was time to leave.  Entering the US was pretty uneventful, other than a 14+ hour day of driving.  We made it Chicago after stopping in Kalamazoo to visit Bell’s Brewery – come on, I’m not gonna drive through KZoo and not stop at Bell’s!  Another beer trade for some amazing available-only-at-the-brewery bottles and we were back on the road to Chicago.

20080415042916_pict0001.jpgChicago was great, a super-quick meet and great with the crew there – who, to my distress/excitement, are almost all moving to CO in a few weeks!  Got to play a quick round of Garage Band (?), grab some delicious breakfast, and back on the road.

20080415042935_pict0003.jpgI leave you with a road trip self-portrait, snapped in the hubcap of a truck we were passing in Wisconsin.  If I did the math right, and I think I did unless I lost a receipt, the Corolla got about 41 mpg on this trip!!!  Whoa.  Guess that’s what cruise control coupled with Canada’s lower speed limit will do for you??  Anyone have a similar amazing mpg story?

Now trying to recover and catch up at work.  Always hard after the conference because I just want to work on implementing all the cool things I saw and learned and want to steal…

Day 3: Brewpub mania!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Travel.
Monday, April 7th, 2008 at 8:07 pm


Up early-ish to pack and load up the car before breakfast at 8 – fruit salad again, equally delicious, and a three-layer cornbread: organic whole wheat, unbleached white, and cornmeal, followed by a baked raspberry cream cheese French toast.  Yum.

20080407184653_pict0002.jpgThen we had to bid adieu to Bayfield and hit the road East…  The first leg of the journey was full of wildlife: a big coyote on the side of the road, a heron that I’m going to call a Great Blue, a bunch of swans, and some sort of grouse – tufted head, brown, white and black markings…  Handsome big guy, whatever he was.  Rick?

20080407184637_pict0003.jpgBy lunchtime we had reached Houghton, home of two brewpubs on our list.  We started at the Library with a sampler of their 10(!!) beers.  Great stuff, they had a wheat that Karen was fond of, and a Rye and a Bock that were really wor20080407184621_pict0004.jpgking for me.  We filled a now-empty growler from Fitger’s for $5(!!) and moved on to the Keweenaw Brewing Company around the corner.

[ side note: on the way to Keweenaw, we saw a pawn shop with a sweet accordion in the window.  We'd been chatting about accordians earlier for some reason, and Karen had said she'd love to play one, so we stopped in.  Ended up having a great chat with the employee about his polka band and accordions and concertinas in general.  Fun, but no purchases this trip.  Car too full of free llamas. ]

20080407184559_pict0005.jpgThey’re a bigger brewing company, with a full canning facility down south of town – I think I read 30 barrels?  Their tasting room has an 8 barrel system so they can bring on more variety – we tried an ESB, 30 Shilling, Pale Ale, 20080407184545_pict0006.jpgBlack Ale, and a Stout.  All excellent, the 30 and ESB stood out to us both…  Learning from our friends at Odell’s in Ft. Collins, we busted out some of our Surly, New Belgium, and Breckenridge beers and worked out a trade for a growler of ESB!  Woo hoo!

20080407184521_pict0007.jpgAfter Houghton we hit a few intense patches of rain, but it stayed near 40 so no snow.  Our friend at Keweenaw had hooked us up with a nice map of 20080407184505_pict0008.jpgMichigan brewpubs, so we found one that I’d left off our list: Jasper Ridge.  Another round of samples later (skip the samples and go for the stout and the pale ale!) plus free popcorn and we were on the home stretch to our destination for the night in Marquette.

20080407184451_pict0012.jpgWe’re actually staying a bit out of town, and on our way back in for the run to the Marquette Harbor brewpub – called the Vierling, I think – we saw this huge crazy 20080407184357_pict0013.jpgstructure extending out into the harbor.  We were both at a loss as to what the purpose might have been – no train tracks led to it, no freighter could approach, and what were all those sections 20080407184341_pict0014.jpgthat looked like they could be lowered individually?  We considered it for a while on our walk to the restaurant, and then gave up.  Any ideas?

The beer here was also very good, and we picked up on a theme – blueberry wheat.  We’d seen this in Jasper Ridge, and I’d also experienced it in a bar in 20080407184317_pict0016.jpgBoston: they throw a handfull of fresh blueberries into the glass just before they serve it to you.  The berries ride the carbonation up and down, presenting a fantastic visual element to the delicious beer.  The other winner here was a pretty awesome chocolate wheat – sort of a stout but with some softer edges from the wheat instead of just roasted barley.

20080407184259_pict0017.jpgAnd now, dear readers, like the sleepy Travelodge bear, I can "bear"ly keep my eyes open!  More tomorrow if you’re lucky, but we actually have to cover some serious ground tomorrow so don’t hold your breath…

Organic IPA for my birthday!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Homebrewing.
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 at 8:27 pm


Got an itch over the weekend to brew an organic beer for my birthday – which, at exactly 4 weeks away, had to happen soon.  Like tonight.

With the hop shortage and since I was playing around with ingredients anyway, I sort of threw a bunch of stuff together.  I mean, I had a plan, and it involved a lot of hops, but it was fairly seat-of-my-pants.  The good fun of the evening was I got to use my hopback: a little grant, or holding tank, full of hops.  The boiling hot wort flows over these hops and then directly into the counterflow chiller where it’s dropped from boiling to 75 degrees in seconds.  The result?  All the amazing hop aroma oils will be disolved into the hot beer and preserved as it cools.  The longer you keep them hot, the more flavor but the less aroma you get – this method gives you almost no flavor but a ton of aroma.  (Oh, and I put a bunch of flavor and bittering hops in too.  Mmmm, hops…)

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Weekend Travels

Posted by Karen in Beer, Bruno, Family, Friends, Travel.
Friday, March 7th, 2008 at 1:01 pm


My BFF Katie is preggers and due in like a week and a half (yik20080305074811_bruno_ayla.jpges!) and  Nate, Bruno, and I recently decided to pay a visit to her, her husband Tim (who I’ve been friends with since high school), daughter Ayla, and dog Lofert in Madison.  Poor Lofert has had some leg issues, but is now on the mend, so this was the first time he and Bruno got to play and be best doggy friends.  And since licking babies is one of Bruno’s favorit20080307102230_tube_o_ayla.jpge things to do in the world, he was delighted to see 1 1/2 year old Ayla.  Ayla has started talking more, but has decided the world really needs a new language, and she is just the little lady to invent it.  She also decided that Lofert needed to be renamed Loooowwwwrrry, and we couldn’t help but agree.  Katie’s plans for world domination have really been slowed down by all this baby stuff, but I think it’s clear that Ayla is now ready to be on board. 

Ok so then we went to Colorado for a long weekend.  We started t20080307103306_n_k_snowshoe.jpghings off right by meeting my aunt and uncle in Denver at Wynkoop’s for dinner and yummy beer.  The rest of the weekend we somehow managed to squeeze in crossword puzzles, stuffed french toast breakfasts, lunch at the Pickle Barrel, a visit with the grandparents, hot tub time, dinner at a fun new restaurant, an O’Dell’s brewery visit, and good times wit20080305074139_pool.jpgh friends.  The weather was funny and gave us a 65 degree day that we made the most out of by going for a hike with the dogs, and then was I think around 40 the next day.  So that day we went for an awesome snowshoeing trip in the mountains!  We were able to get together at Coopersmith’s one evening with Troy and Scotty, and Rick was delighted to spank them all soundly at a few games of pool. 

I was really excited to see my friend Paula (who I went to college with in Duluth), her husband Todd, and their beautiful daughter 20080307102454_me_esme.jpgEsme!  Esme has the #1 all-time best baby hair ever!  She has a blonde mohawk that gets kind of squished up in the front, and then a short brown mullet in the back! No hair on the sides or in the middle of the back of her head!!!  It’s truly amazing.  Esme is super mellow and happy and just hung out all wide-eyed pretty much the whole time while we had dinner.  Todd told me some incredible baby poo stories that had me laughing so hard I almost passed out.  Parenthood seems to be really agreeing with them and it is a beautiful thing to see.

And last but not least… we went to a concert of the Irish band Solas! It was great!  They really are ridiculously amazing musicians.  After the concert they were hanging out at a table talking to people and signing  autogr20080305072844_solas_solas.jpgaphs.  Nate got all super shy and we almost punked out, but I realized it would be so stupid to NOT say anything, so we totally talked to them and told them our last name was Solas.  And then they asked us to join the band.  Ok, not really, but we did get this sweet Solas & Solas photo!

Dog Biscuits and Beer

Posted by Nate in Beer, Bruno.
Wednesday, February 13th, 2008 at 7:38 am


20080213052500_pict0005.jpg… no, not at the same time.  :)  Last Friday was Winterfest, the annual fundraiser for the MN Craft Brewers Guild, and the first one I’d been able to attend.  It was awesome!  (despite a very chilly half-hour wait in line outside – they only had one person checking IDs at first!)

20080213052516_pict0021.jpgNot sure I could pick a favorite from the evening, but Town Hall won a deserved victory with their Chocolate Raspberry Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout.  Pretty incredible.  Really, that’s half the fun for me at events like this – getting inspired!  (Sorry about that pic, Sierra – you look sober in the one before20080213052446_pict0004.jpg and after, but everyone else looks better here!)

I got to talk to the brewers at a number of the tables and got some good tips on their processes, especially regarding fermentation temperature – more on that in another post, I’ve got some small but vital additions to my brewing process.  Pic at left:  gee, it’s like they’re speaking from experience!!  (but the capitalization…?)

20080213052338_pict0001.jpgSo that was a great start to the weekend.  The next morning we happened to go into Kitchen Window where I lusted after their enamel-coated pans (no more teflon!) and we managed to find a perfect size dog biscuit cookie cutter.  Inspired, Karen researched a few recipes, and by Sunday evening was turning out trays of the cutest little dog treats I’ve ever seen!

20080213052428_pict0003.jpgNot only are we saving money (somehow those treats are expensive), but we know exactly what’s in them and that it’s all good for him.  No preservatives, no filler, no corners cut.  Hooray!

I Need This

Posted by Nate in Beer, Ideas.
Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 at 9:27 am


This is almost certainly the coolest thing ever built.  Brent, feel like making some modifications to your MAME cabinet??  I’ll brew the beer…

Halloween in Chicago

Posted by Nate in Family, Friends, Homebrewing, Travel.
Thursday, November 1st, 2007 at 12:03 pm


img_3741.JPGTook a quick trip to Chicago last weekend for a super-fun Halloween party: Heaven and Hell(icious)!  Now that Laurel and Freddie live upstairs from my usual Chicago destination, they decided to throw a joint party and decorate the downstairs like a creepy idea of hell and the upstairs like heaven.  It was awesome!  img_3767.JPGNot sure you can see the amount of detail that went into heaven, but they laid down white paper on the floor (looked good and protected against spills), hung blue plastic on the walls, blew up a million balloons, hung streamers, and even printed a ton of gorgeous cloud pictures to put on the walls!!  No idea who these people are but it shows some of the decorations…

img_3714.JPGKaren and I went as a portable (pirate!) bar, and won in the informal costume contest!  Who could resist a working tap and snack vending machine??  No one.  (You can’t see it, but Karen has a three-compartment snack vending machine like you see in grocery stores.  I rigged it so it was free, and we filled it with bar snacks!)
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Laurel dressed up as Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas — including a hand-stitched patchwork dress!  Whoa.  Clearly the costume judges were being nice to their out-of-town guests to have overlooked her…  :)

img_3715.JPGCody brought back out his creepy baby outfit.  Creepy.  Karen let him rest on her bar.dsc01067.JPG

A great time (and much pumpkin ale) was had by all!  Happy Halloween!

1 out of 6

Posted by Nate in Beer, Friends, Projects.
Thursday, October 25th, 2007 at 10:45 pm


1753050100_da87f898d8_b.jpgThat’s how I did in the beer identification last night at Town Hall’s Beerlympics: 1 correct answer out of 6 beers.  What.  The.  Hell.  I don’t know, I’m still trying to come up with an excuse.  Terrible.  The winner got just three, and I think he got the two I was pretty sure about but got the name wrong on one and sort of got mislead by the Belgian 1752233207_c893d2934e_o.jpgyeast in the other.  Talking to the brewer afterwards he said it was the same yeast as the one I guessed, and hell, it tasted the same to me.  Then there’s one I really have no excuse for, should have nailed it, which would have given me 4!  But did I get 4?  No.  Guess I’ll just have to go to Town Hall more this year to "practice".  :)

1753081206_81ef634ffd_o.jpgWe got third place overall, though!  Cody was DQed in the chugging cause he has a leaky mouth – they thought he dribbled too much, even though it was just a few drops.  Boo.  He had the fastest time, too…  Scott was amazing in the quarter bounce – he found his rhythm and I think had 10 in a row at one point!

1752310521_1cf0212e93_o.jpgBut I have to find a new word to describe the awe in which I now hold the eating machine named Peter: 5 brats in 5 minutes.  I’m talking big, greasy brats and buns, none of this little hot dog stuff.  Unreal.  I’m wishing someone had a video phone and I could go find a clip on Youtube of him tearing his shirt off after brat #3.  Oh, my.  First place in the brat eating contest!!

In other news:

  • The wakeup system is moving along nicely.  I found a way to remove the optical sensor piece and am instead monitoring the voltage directly, which gives me a much more reliable (and faster) way to sense when the alarm is going off.  We’ve had it in our room this last week with just a few LED lights instead of the final fixture (the kit for that dimmer just arrived yesterday), and it’s been working pretty well.  I think it will be better once it’s generating more light, and once I stop waking up early every morning wondering if it’s going off soon.  Should be fully operational by next week when I’ll try to document it better!
  • This is probably officially the latest in the year I’ve been continuously biking to work, and it rules.  There were a ton of birds singing yesterday along the Greenway, the weather’s been chilly gorgeous, and I even saw a deer last week!  I’m feeling more and more confident that if the route is ridable the cold is something I can handle with good gear.  And my definition of "ridable" is getting broader, so here’s hoping for a good winter of bike commuting!

1753155212_db8bb5ebd6_o.jpg That’s all for now!  Karen and Cody and I are heading to Chicago this weekend for a halloween party, should be a blast!

(sorry, I don’t know what sort of gang sign I was going for there, but it just looks like I’m hugging myself…)

[All photos courtesy of Peter's Flickr page]

More pictures!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Wedding.
Friday, September 28th, 2007 at 11:50 am


Pictures on Snapfish from Katie.

Pictures from Cody, including some pretty amazing shots of what appears to be Sasquatch.  Wow!

I also adjusted the timestamps on Peter’s pictures (one of his cameras wasn’t on daylight saving or something?) so they’re now in order in the album, it’s much cooler to browse through them now since they tell the story sequentially.  (Thanks to Q for pointing this out, I thought they were in order…)

In other Duoteam news, we’re still both fighting coughs.  Feeling mostly ok otherwise, but it’s proving hard to shake this thing.  Ah well, neither of us had been sick since January, and I suppose this is what we get for pushing so hard in the months leading up to the wedding.  Now if only Bruno would let us sleep in when we have time…

Tomorrow’s the Autumn Brew Review!  I remember the first year I went we still lived near downtown and I walked to Peavey Plaza by myself, drank like a fish, and stumbled home through Loring Park to our apartment.  The next year we somehow missed it (I think a coworker’s wedding was that weekend)…  And then last year Karen joined me and we took her dad and Sierra and it was the Best.  Day.  Ever.  This year we’ve got a whole posse, it’s being held outdoors at the historic Grain Belt Brewery complex, and it’s going to rule!!!